Ikea wants to put a virtual, inflatable elephant in your living room

Ikea's Space10 has been working on almost 20 experiments that reimagine living in and designing your home.

Ikea launched research and design firm Space10 in 2015 to work on conceptual projects. On Wednesday, it unveiled Everyday Experiments, a hub detailing 18 projects that pull technology into the way we manipulate and experience our home's design and make decisions, from the size of shelving to the positioning of furniture. From space-measuring inflatable elephants to dreamy audio visualizers and effortless on-screen fort creation, the experiments from collaborations with several design studios offer often fantastical reimaginings of interior design.

The elephant in the room — An experiment from creative studio Field called Extreme Measures uses an inflatable, augmented reality (AR) elephant to measure space. It relies on LiDAR — spatial mapping technology most commonly used to help autonomous vehicles and machines — which is built into some high-end phones to fill nooks and crannies around your home with a virtual pachyderm.

Field also leverages LiDAR and AR overlays in the Spatial Instruments project that transforms ordinary objects into sound vectors that you can rearrange for pleasing soundscapes.

Extreme Measures by FieldEveryday Experiments

The European design firm also created one of the most satisfying projects from the list in the form of the Fort Builder prototype. It allows for the manipulation of real items around your home in AR or VR to create a 3D structure that you can also knock over at any point like a giant game of furniture-based Jenga.

Fort Builder by FieldEveryday Experiments

Visualizing sound — Another studio, ManvsMachine, created a project called Optical Soundsystem which visualizes how sound travels through your home. Colorful, sand-like particles appear to pulse through space, shifting hues depending on the frequencies emitted from the chosen speaker. In the example, the speaker is of course an Ikea one from its recent Frekvens collaboration with Teenage Engineering.

Optical Soundsystem by ManvsMachineEveryday Experiments

Shelving made smart — Bakken & Bæck's project, Shelve It, asks "What if you could design the perfect shelf simply by looking at a wall?" Using AR and hypnotic visuals, the project allows a user to point a phone or tablet at a wall and instantly picture shelving for it, with the dimensions of the shelves dynamically adjusting with familiar gestures like pinch-to-zoom.

"When detecting a wall, Shelve It will be able to recognize how it's connected to the floor and could detect objects in front or leaning against it. It would then use rays to scan the wall and map out available areas where shelves could go, ensuring that you are maximizing the potential of your space with regards to storage," the company explains. "The scanned areas are then automatically filled with the essential modules of Ikea’s Ivar shelf system to give the user an idea of how it would look. Every bit of space you scan feeds back into the algorithm, resulting in a more evolved shelving suggestion."

What does this mean for Ikea? — Ikea gave its beloved iPad Pro app a serious upgrade in March to allow for more realistic and customizable AR functionality. The new Studio Mode uses 3D depth to help users imagine design possibilities for their space. With so many of Everyday Experiments’ projects based in spatial mapping and even real-world applications like ambiance-controlling Light Gestures, we expect many of them will make the transition from the Everyday Experiments website to the app soon.